fresh voices from the front lines of change







President Barack Obama addresses the U.S. Chamber of Commerce today. In a preview of his remarks, the Washington Post reports that infrastructure investment will be a “likely point of focus for Obama” as it is a “rare point of agreement between business and labor.”

But will there be enough focus to pressure the Chamber to do more than just nominally “agree ” with the President, and actually spend money to help President achieve the goal?

The Chamber spent $86 million in a failed attempt to defeat health reform from becoming law. The Chamber spent $31 million in a successful campaign to elect more Republicans to Congress. And the Chamber is planning to spend more than $50 million on congressional campaigns next year. Will the Chamber do the same to support its own position for more infrastructure?

We know that the Chamber is quite willing to spend millions on the things it really wants.

Does it really want America to invest more in our infrastructure to create jobs and lay a foundation for sustainable growth?

Or is it simply offering a perfunctory statement of support to curry favor with the White House, or appease member businesses angry with the Chamber for its scurrilous 2010 ad campaign?

I’m not raising this question because I want to prove the Chamber is a hypocritical conservative front group masquerading as the voice of the business community – although that may well be the case.

I’m raising it because I would like to see the Chamber put $86 million into pressuring Congress to support the President on infrastructure.

Something dramatic needs to happen if the Republican-led House is going to support government action to create jobs.

Presumably, the folks at the Chamber know this. They know they are in a position to do something about it. And they know that a few statements here and there are not going to cut it.

Today, when President comes to visit them, the leaders of the Chamber have a chance to prove they are serious about revitalizing our infrastructure, and willing to set aside ideology when the success of the business community is at stake.

If not, and the Chamber sits on its collective wallet during the infrastructure debate, then we will know – simply by following the money – that it puts partisan politics ahead of what’s best for business.

Right now, the Chamber gets a lot of mileage in the eyes of the media by being perceived as the voice of American business. But if that’s not how it spends their money, perhaps the perception will be revisited.

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